The sleep cycle of dogs is nothing like humans. Humans naturally stay awake for 16 hours and sleep for eight. Dogs prefer to be awake for a few hours, then nap for a few hours, then wake up again, repeating the cycle. This is why you will find your dogs napping a lot during the day and also why you may hear your dog being up at night. Biologically, dog sleep is unlike human sleep. For a dog sleeping time being daytime is just natural.
Ideally, we want to make sure that our dogs learn that daytime is playtime and night time is bedtime.
Being descended from wolves, dogs do tend to have some nocturnalism in them. Even though dogs have lived with humans and are capable of adapting to the human sleep / wake cycles, for some dogs complete darkness at night could trigger their nocturnal instinct or it could trigger anxiety. On the opposite end, lights being turned on at night could frustrate a dog that is used to sleeping in the dark.
If your dog is used to sleeping with lights on right from its puppy days, then turning the lights off might just disrupt your dog’s sleeping pattern.
On the other hand, if your dog is used to sleeping with lights off, he might just prefer to sleep in the dark which will make your life easier.
You also need to check if your dog is afraid of the dark. Any anxiety being exhibited due to lights being switched off should not be ignored. You might feel that the dog will slowly adapt to the darkness but it is not necessarily so. It might just worsen the situation.
Tips to help your dog sleep better:
Exercise your dog
Exercising your dog will wear him out and that will help him fall asleep at night easily. You should time the exercise according to the time of sleep. A couple of hours before bedtime should do the trick. If not much, simply walking the dog can help.
Keep your dog active during the day
Keeping your dog active and busy during the day will ensure that he won’t sleep much in the daytime. It will help your dog adjust his nocturnal sleep cycle slowly as the dog will get more tired during the night. If your dog is well-exercised, he will sleep well.
Avoid long naps during the day
While all dogs tend to nap frequently during the daytime, it might be counterintuitive to allow too long naps in the daytime as it can disrupt their nighttime sleep. If you find your dog sleeping too much during the day, you might have to come up with ways to get them to move about and play to get rid of the sleepiness.
Sleeping with lights on vs lights off
Your dog will exhibit several behaviours that can help you understand whether he prefers to sleep with lights on or with lights off. If your dog goes into a dark room to sleep or if he slips under his blanket, it can be taken as a clear sign that he prefers to sleep with lights off. Also, if your dog is becomes more active and playful with the lights being on at night time, it could be that the lights are confusing him to think that it is daytime.
Fear of the dark can hamper your dog’s sleep
It is quite possible at times that certain dogs might be afraid of the dark. You could use the pointers in our post about ‘Dogs and fear of the dark’ to check if that is the case for your dog.
Get your dog used to sleeping alone from the start
It can have a disastrous effect on your dog if you allow him to sleep with you when he’s a young pup and later on try to force him to sleep alone. Being used to sleeping with a human in the same bed can lead to separation anxiety later on when the dog is no more allowed to sleep with you. It is much better to make sure that the dog is used to sleeping alone from the very beginning. Other than sick days, a young pup can sleep by itself and you should let it.
If your dog sleeps with you already
If your dog has always slept with you in the same bed, it might just be time to teach him to sleep by itself. However, this is not all that simple and easy. It is a major change for the dog which has the potential of causing a great amount of separation anxiety to the dog. Out article on how to get your dog to sleep alone can help you with this.
Use a Puppy Night Light
You have to check how your dog / puppy responds to a night light. Some dogs puppies will like the presence of a subtle glow in the room, while others might just feel frustrated because of the light keeping them awake at night.
Use specially designed dog sleep music for calming your dog
A good rub down helps your dog sleep well
Dogs love being stroked calmly as it helps them to relax.
Sides of the face
Focus more on the sides of the face with gentle strokes and small circular motions.
Along the spine
Massaging the length of your dog’s body, put your palm at the base of your pet’s neck, and run it through the spine towards the base of your dog’s tail. Make sure you do not press too hard, just sweep your hand gently down the back in a calming, repetitive, slow motion. You can end the petting session by pressing lightly at the base of the head and tail.
Stroking your dog’s chest in gentle circular motions will help him relax. Observe your dog’s reaction to know how much pressure is right for him, as too much pressure or too fast a pace may end up exciting the dog instead of calming him down. Stroking his cheeks or massaging between the snout and forehead can also have a calming effect.
Massaging your dog’s ears is a great way to naturally calm down your dog. The ears are packed with nerve endings which can release endorphins into your dog’s body when they are massaged.
Gently stroking your dog’s ears using circular finger movements, starting from the base of the ear and moving outwards. Don’t press too hard and observe your dog’s reaction carefully to gauge what he likes and what he does not.